The Tennessee Department of Transportation unveiled an expanded Wilson County thoroughfare on Wednesday as local leaders gathered to celebrate.
Construction has been done on State Route 109 to upgrade the road, and now that it is complete, commuters can travel all the way to Gallatin without having to merge the lanes.
Deputy TDOT Commissioner Paul Degges was delighted with the occasion.
“We were out here with shovels a few years ago,” said Degges. “(It) feels good to use scissors this time.”
Degges said his excitement came from the project coming to life and what the extra lanes could mean for traffic and development.
“(Highway) 109 is an important corridor in this region of the state,” Degges said. “When we wanted to extend 840 north, we knew that for the growth we are seeing in this area, it would have to carry large amounts of traffic.”
Degges said the seven-mile project cost $ 55 million and that a Portland bypass would be the next piece of the puzzle. Portland is the northern point of the route where it connects to Interstate-65.
The road may be a more comfortable ride for commuters, but Degges said the middle turn lane will also make local residents a lot safer so they can move around the road more smoothly.
Lebanese Mayor Rick Bell said he grew up in the west of the city he now runs. Traveling to Corridor 109 is “like an adventure,” he said.
“Sometimes we came here to eat at the Cherokee Steakhouse,” said Bell. âIt was winding and hilly, and I was the boy who kept asking, ‘How much longer?’ â
Juliet State Representative Susan Lynn praised the workers and administrators of the Vulcan Materials Company for their responsiveness and caution.
“Talk about safety concerns,” said Lynn, speaking of a case where an allegedly overturned cone was blocking traffic, and how quickly someone reacted to the situation.
Lynn added that, as good as it looked, she was very grateful for the new level of safety for drivers and residents.
Lynn was instrumental in funding the road, according to one of her Nashville colleagues, Senator Mark Pody of Lebanon. He named her the lead advocate for the project in the general assembly.
According to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, this stretch of freeway had a bad rap for fatal car accidents. He said that at times it seemed like the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency was responding to a fatal crash almost every month.
Hutto said he was grateful that the extra lanes would weaken the calls no dispatcher would ever want to take.
Wilson County won’t be the only beneficiary of the expanded road, as Degges indicated the project would help boost economic development in southern Gallatin.
Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown was present and addressed the audience. She asked, “You’re probably wondering what the Gallatin Mayor is doing here in Wilson County, aren’t you?” We have 20,000 people commuting to Gallatin every day and about 25% of them come via this route. We are a city in the middle of all streets, so improving this access is critical to our viability. “